HAWAII, March 10, 2012 – Mitt Romney has swept the Pacific with solid victories and 18 delegates from Guam and the Northern Marianas. All that stands in the way of a total Romney grand slam is Hawaii, which holds its GOP caucus on Tuesday, March 13.
The Romney campaign is well organized, highly professional in their campaign tactics, experienced veterans of numerous campaigns and in spite of what pundits allege, extremely motivated and fully capable of beating Barack Obama in November.
Whenever Romney campaigns a state, he finds a pre-existing infrastructure of Republican incumbents in state and county offices who take initiative by leveraging their resources and name recognition to stage get out the vote operations, fundraisers, media courting and surrogate designee forums.
As Romney’s star continues to rise and his number of first place wins racks up, more and more Republican incumbents and candidates will yoke to the Romney campaign because of the symbiotic benefits conferred from endorsing Romney (and receiving an endorsement in return). The danger this presents to trailing POTUS candidates is that there comes a point of no return where the trajectory for Romney’s nomination becomes inevitable.
When we look at the Paul campaign, though we see an exceptional electoral momentum that includes first time youth voters, disenfranchised 2008 Obama supporters and Libertarians, the fundamental problem is that Paul’s campaign has been unable to process prior defeats into a resurgent strategy for scoring a successive set of first place state wins.
Many of Paul’s supporters are political neophytes, which is a stellar tribute to the candidate’s appeal but also means there is a sharp learning curve in terms of understanding how to run an asymmetric campaign, how to mathematically analyze demographics and develop a “win set” within voter indifference curves and most importantly, how to not just splash memorably but win first place.
Four words that will reload and reboot the Ron Paul Revolution
Since Paul is a retired Air Force officer and many of his supporters are either retired or active duty military, I think that Paul should immediately take a time out and go back to his Air Force knowledge set and consider adapting the tactics taught by Colonel John Boyd into his political campaign.
Boyd famously developed what Air Force aerospace planners and engineers call the “OODA Loop” – an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The idea behind Boyd’s theory is that the key to defeating your opponent is not through attacking his strength with parity of strength but rather through interrupting his decision-making cycle (his “OODA Loop”). The faster that a tactician can observe an event, orient themselves in a position advantageous to that event, decide what is best to do and then immediately act, the faster their opponent is defeated.
The bigger the OODA Loop, the slower it takes for a tactician to adapt and position for the victory, making them vulnerable to interception. The smaller the OODA Loop, the faster a tactician can adapt and position, making them less vulnerable to interception. Lesson learned: prize flexibility and adaptability above all else.
Paul’s campaign OODA Loop is massive, whereas Romney’s OODA Loop is extremely small and tight. Whereas Romney will learn from a defeat and adapt by doing less of the things that upset Republican voters and more of the things that they like, Paul insists on using identical tactics and talking points in every state he goes to – and in fact, the more unpopular the message or delivery system employed, the more Paul says it and does it.
I could go on into the organizational paradigm behind the two campaigns and their methodology – how Romney’s OODA Loop adeptness comes from a rapid feedback/reward and high risk paradigm (“Tough Guy Macho Culture”), making him appropriately suited to run as Republican, or how Paul is a low feedback/reward and low risk paradigm (“Process Culture”), making him better suited as a Libertarian candidate – but alea iacta est, the die has been cast and Paul must now figure out how to win Republican votes or expect to lose big.
I am not at all suggesting that Ron Paul should resort to pandering or flip-flopping, but how you present the message and candidate should be contextually relevant for the time and place it is deployed and tactically advantageous against the candidate opposed. Adaptation is essential to survival. Period.
Hawaii or not at all
Paul needs a first place win, and as I have said before, the best place to do that is Hawaii’s upcoming caucus. Because Hawaii has a small population and a small registered Republican minority, campaigning for a GOP caucus can be done at minimal cost. Hawaii is the easiest possible win for Paul and should not be neglected.
If you’re a candidate who is on the ropes and a state like Hawaii is up for grabs, you win the election by getting the state campaign to compile the top 60% and above issues, isolate which ones line up with the candidate’s ideal point and then send the candidate himself down to press the flesh and deliver the talking points in person in a manner that is contextually appropriate.
You find out who the local celebrities and trusted politicos are and you make arrangements to have them take you to all the gravity centers. You court incumbents and you find ways to promote them as they promote you. You get them to write letters to the editor, OpEds in the local paper, go on radio and local TV to talk about you every day until the caucus. You find out what you’re opponent should be doing but isn’t doing and you do it yourself.
You come down to a place like Hawaii and, knowing you have lots of fans, organize a massive event in a publicly visible place and you deliver a charismatic speech that the media can’t ignore and energizes supporters who are getting weary. “We’re drawing a line in the sand. This far and no further,” you say to a packed rally with force in your words. “Right here, right now, we will break our opponent’s momentum. This is no longer just my revolution. It’s the American Revolution – reloaded.”
The sheer psychological victory of winning Obama’s home state would be a great victory for the Paul campaign – but losing it would be a missed opportunity that cannot be found anywhere else.
Danny de Gracia is a political scientist, an ordained minister and a former senior adviser to two committee chairs of the Hawaii State House of Representatives. He currently lives in Hawaii.
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